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I have to admit that when it comes to social media marketing, I might have underestimated the power of this relatively new medium. Based on what I’m seeing, social media marketing very well might actually live up to all the hype that digital marketers have been giving it the past couple of years.

When I wrote about social media marketing a year and a half ago, I confessed that I’m not a big social media guy. It took me a long time to join the 1.5 billion other people worldwide who are on Facebook, and I still don’t engage on any other social media platforms — whether Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest or Tumblr — except LinkedIn.

Personal Experiences Change My Thinking

But my personal experiences on Facebook recently have shown me first-hand the potential power of social media as a sales and marketing tool. Here are two quick examples:

Last fall I started noticing Facebook ads for a new gym, Crunch Fitness, that was going to be opening near my house. I was interested in joining because I’d been going to my old gym for over 6 years and was getting kinda bored. Crunch used Facebook to promote their grand opening, publicize pre-opening deals, and even answer people’s questions. I joined and told the manager how effective their targeted Facebook advertising was.

About the same time, a new local record store’s ads and posts also started popping up on my Facebook news feed. So my daughter and I went to check it out loved the store, Comeback Vinyl — it’s owned by a mom and her son who love vinyl records and decided to open their own store. Now we stop in regularly and never leave without buying an album, book, poster or the like.

Would I have even heard of these new businesses — much less visited them and become a regular customer — if I hadn’t seen them on Facebook? I suppose I might have driven past them, though neither is on routes I usually drive or has a very visible street presence. And I might have seen a newspaper or TV ad if they’d gone this route, though I’d guess these are much more expensive.

Plus, their social media presence enabled the gym and the record store to regular interact online with their customers and prospects. The gym posted updates and pictures every day about the progress of their renovation, building interest and excitement, and the record store regularly posts links to interesting articles about music and bands. There’s also the ability to do local targeting on Facebook — the gym and record store are both fairly close to where I live.

CEOs Are Jumping On Board

In 2012, Forbes.com ran an article titled “Why CEOs Should Care: How Social Media Drives Business.” The article noted that a survey of CEOs worldwide found that only 16 percent of them were actively participating in social media. However, it predicted that this percentage would grow to 57 percent within five years.

Fast forward three years later and according a Forbes.com article published last May, 80 percent of CEOs are now engaged in social media. This was a significantly higher percentage than the magazine predicted in about half the time it originally anticipated. This indicates that business leaders, while slow to embrace social media at first, are now jumping on board along with everybody else.

5 Social Media Marketing Tips

If you are planning to launch a social media marketing campaign — or if you have a campaign but would like to improve your results — here are 5 ideas from social media marketing pros, as complied by Social Media Examiner:

1. Create a social media channel plan. Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, points out that many companies think they need to create content for every social media channel out there. Compounding the problem, they then post the same content on every platform. Since the goals for each social platform should be different, each platform’s content needs to be different — and the best way to organize all this is with a social media channel plan.

2. Focus on one social media channel. Jeff Korhan, MBA, the author of Built-in Social, takes this one step further: He suggests finding the one social channel that is densely populated with your ideal customers and focusing all your social marketing efforts here.

3. Post social media content consistently. According to John Lee Dumas, the founder and host of EntrepreneurOnFire, consistency is the key to growing a social media following and building engagement. Being consistent requires putting the right systems in place to keep posts organized, interesting and relevant to the audience. He recommends using Edgar, an online platform that makes it easy to create and manage content categories, schedule posts and update your schedule.

4. Use social updates to write blog posts. Social marketing strategist Ted Rubin suggests using your most popular tweets and LinkedIn and Facebook posts as material for your blogs. Blogs don’t have to be three pages long, either — Rubin notes that Seth Godin, one of the world’s most successful bloggers, is a master at writing short, thought-provoking blogs that are easy for time-pressed people to read.

5. Use LinkedIn Publisher. According to Melonie Dodaro, the author of The LinkedIn Code, LinkedIn’s free content publishing tool is a great way to increase your exposure to your target audience and build your credibility as an industry expert. Each time you publish here, all of your LinkedIn connections and followers will receive a notification.